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Monday, 27 October 2008

Emigration: An Introduction

When researching your family tree you may come across an ancestor who migrated from Britain or Ireland to settle in another country. People elected to migrate abroad for a variety of reasons. Many went in search of a better life to escape poverty, others to flee religious persecution, such as the Puritans who fled to the New World. Some went unwillingly, convicted of a crime and transported to one of Britains colonies. Although the Industrial Revolution increased employment in urban areas throughout the nineteenth century, many people in rural areas found their livelihood threatened as the mass production of textiles replaced many rural cottage industries. One way to escape was to emigrate. Indeed many poor emigrants may have beeen given state assistance when seeking a new life abroad.

The most popular locations where Britons chose to start a new life were North America,Australia, New Zealand and Southern Africa. After the end of the First World War, the British Government began officially to support migration. In 1919 a scheme was introduced to aid the the migration of ex-servicemen and in 1922 the Empire Settlement Act was introduced, providing support for families to migrate to the dominions. Another less well known policy of migration adopted by the British government was the child migration scheme to Australia, South Africa and Canada, popular from the late nineteenth century onwards. This will be covered in a later post in this series and I will link to it from here when completed.